In Hesse, two people have died after eating sausage products that were loaded with so-called Listeria. The most important questions and answers about these pathogens.
What are Listeria?
These are bacteria that are found everywhere in the environment - in the soil, on plants, in wastewater, as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) writes. The microbes are very robust, so that in principle they can multiply even at refrigerator temperatures. The Listeria species that causes most diseases in humans is called Listeria monocytogenes.
How can you get infected with Listeria?
As a rule, people are infected with contaminated food with Listeria. These can be animal products, as in the current case sausage. However, there are also cases in which salads were burdened with Listeria.
What happens after eating contaminated food?
People with a healthy immune system usually do not get ill after consuming Listeria-contaminated foods. Or they just have fever and diarrhea for a short time.
The pathogens are dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as patients with a chronic illness or a transplanted organ. Even newborns and seniors are at risk.
If a more severe disease develops in these people, it is called listeriosis. It is initially similar to flu - with fever and muscle pain. This can cause diarrhea and vomiting. In the further course, a life-threatening sepsis can develop, which can lead to the failure of several organs. In addition, meningitis is a danger. Therefore, listeriosis can lead to death.
A Listeria infection is also a greater risk in pregnancy. The unborn child can become infected and ill. According to the CDC, listeriosis causes miscarriage in one out of every five cases during pregnancy.
How often does listeriosis occur?
According to the RKI, the number of cases of listeriosis in Germany is between about 300 and 770 per year.
How is the disease treated?
Listeria are treated with antibiotics. Despite this possibility, the disease is often no longer curable. According to RKI, about 21 percent of patients with Listeria-related sepsis and 13 percent of patients who developed meningitis from the infection have died in recent years.
How to prevent an infection
The RKI recommends risk groups - especially pregnant women and patients with suppressed immune systems - to refrain from some foods in which a Listeria infestation is more likely to occur. Risky is basically what's raw:
- raw meat products such as Mett,
- Raw sausages like salami,
- raw fish, for example sushi,
- Raw milk soft cheese
- and also pre-cut, packaged lettuce
However, the RKI also reports listeriosis outbreaks caused by contaminated sour milk cheese made from pasteurized milk and also recommends risk groups to refrain from doing so.